Twenty years after first bursting onto screens, the ‘Fast and the Furious’ series has grown in popularity. Each entry makes ever more box office dollars as stories and stunts become increasingly outlandish. It seems almost silly to heavily criticize these films as you know exactly what to expect. Babes, brawn and lots of cars are usually on the agenda. ‘F9’ is no different. Not even needing a full title anymore on their posters, ‘the Fast and the Furious’ series blasts its way further into petrol-fuelled fairy-tale territory with over the top antics for which it is renowned.

After years of battling villains of all persuasions, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) hopes life will be simpler. Living with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and having friends like Roman (Tyrese Gibson), he thinks smooth sailing will happen. His wayward brother Jakob (John Cena) smashes his idyll when he teams up with evil criminal mastermind Cypher (Charlize Theron). Forced to once again face his opponents head on, Dominic gathers his friends in order to defeat this latest threat as they blaze a trail down life’s adrenaline-fuelled highway.

What started out as an urban based action series about street racing, has now morphed into an extravaganza with ‘F9’. Logic and common sense have vanished replaced with pulsating spectacle. Making ‘F9’ different is the crafting of more character back-story. The relationship between Dominic and his brother serves as the story’s main focus. How they became the men they are is effectively explored as are the multitude of plot twists. Returning after a few film’s absence, Director Justin Lin deftly balances the outrageous plot and character moments with ease and skilfully keeps the momentum ticking along.

‘F9’ succeeds in being entertaining nonsense. That’s in spite of the level of danger being diminished with all seeming invincible. There’s never a feeling of genuine threat as the villain’s central scheme is quickly forgotten. Most story ideas are pushed aside in favour of the suitably dazzling stunts. It’s a credit to the writers’ creativity in dreaming elaborate new stunts. They bring freshness to the ageing franchise even if a few of them go too far into the realms of absolute fantasy.

You’re never going to win over anyone who dislikes the ‘Fast and Furious’ films. They have become increasingly ludicrous with each successive instalment. ‘F9’ ramps up that factor literally sky high. It’s not quite up there with the absolute best of the series but it gives it a good go. For a fun time watching escapist silliness for a few hours, ‘F9’ gives you what you want. It will be interesting seeing how the series ends with the only barrier being the limitations of its writers’ fevered imaginations.

Rating out of 10: 7


Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ is the sequel to the successful 2017 action comedy ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’. That featured the considerable talents of Samuel L Jackson, Ryan Reynolds and Salma Hayek. All have featured in similar films several times, showing their versatility in-between more serious work. Whilst it may not be totally fantastic viewing, ‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ is amiably silly nonsense coasting on their presence and unique comedic skills.

Bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is taking a well-earned break from protecting notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson). His idyll is shattered when Darius’ wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), appears. Rescuing Michael from an assassination attempt, Sonia tells him they must rescue her husband from certain death. Events quickly spiral out of control with powerful forces, including Greek mobster Aristotle (Antonio Banderas), who stop at nothing to obtain their prey.

‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ is classic commercial dot-to-dot film-making. It has the feel of a threadbare plot written around a litany of spectacular action sequences. Many have done this to varied success. Brain cells and acting abilities aren’t taxed with ‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’, with those involved diving into their roles with the enthusiasm of receiving their next huge pay-check. Most of the time it’s a fun ride with the central performing trio clearly enjoying the increasingly outrageous antics.

The trick is whether the viewer is entertained. Most of the time ‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ raises smiles and gasps at the well-staged action. It’s impossible to take the ridiculous story seriously as a sense of danger is severely lacking. What it has is a great tone of fun. Patrick Hughes directs proceedings with some flair and almost manages to keep momentum going.

Not much else can be said for ‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’. It is a pure formula flick for undemanding viewers not wanting to think too much. It sets a cracking pace and generally doesn’t let up. Although it isn’t great, ‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ is never dull, offering more proof of the chemistry between actors can almost make any mundane material look good.

Rating out of 10: 6